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The Bowler or Derby Hat

newturnofphrase

One of the Regulars
Messages
251
Location
Canada
Thanks, for the comment on my blog and for this image. I had misunderstood what you did. I would have done the same thing if I had received a hat with a brim like that!

If I ever get around to writing it, one of my next posts will talk about syle changes in Bowlers and Derbies over the decades, particularly between the 19th and 20th centuries. Mostly Derbies, as that's what I've studied the most, but I'll also talk about what are considered the differences between English and American styles.

Steam is good for most small things, though more severe creases sometimes require the denatured alcohol. I had one crease that was perpendicular to the edge of the brim and I was afraid the felt was actually split. The felt turned out to be okay, as the denatured alcohol softened and reset the shellac, solving the problem.

Brad

Thanks for the tip about denatured alcohol, if I come across a damaged hat that will be very useful information. As for the historical changes in style I would definitely be very much interested to read such an article. Clearly brim shape and crown height/shape have been changing enormously over time since the invention of the bowler and with the divergent American adoption of it as the derby. When will you end your historical review, the 1950s? That would seem reasonable to me because I question whether contemporary machine sewed brim bindings and their homburg shape can be considered a style, given that it's entirely a result of cheaper manufacturing rather than a conscious choice of styling. I also wonder why modern bowlers and derbies by old manufacturers all look so short and squat. An outgrowth of the article might be a comparison of historical top hats and bowler styles in the same eras, and how they converged and diverged, and whether there was a correlation or inverse correlation to stylistic changes in each type of hat.

Edit: this last because I consider the top hat and the bowler hat to be close cousins in many ways, the only really fundamental difference being crown shape.
 
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Brad Bowers

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,187
Thanks for the tip about denatured alcohol, if I come across a damaged hat that will be very useful information. As for the historical changes in style I would definitely be very much interested to read such an article. Clearly brim shape and crown height/shape have been changing enormously over time since the invention of the bowler and with the divergent American adoption of it as the derby. When will you end your historical review, the 1950s? That would seem reasonable to me because I question whether contemporary machine sewed brim bindings and their homburg shape can be considered a style, given that it's entirely a result of cheaper manufacturing rather than a conscious choice of styling. I also wonder why modern bowlers and derbies by old manufacturers all look so short and squat. An outgrowth of the article might be a comparison of historical top hats and bowler styles in the same eras, and how they converged and diverged, and whether there was a correlation or inverse correlation to stylistic changes in each type of hat.

Edit: this last because I consider the top hat and the bowler hat to be close cousins in many ways, the only really fundamental difference being crown shape.

I'm with you on this last point. One thing I've wondered is whether the D'Orsay-curl on the brim transferred from top hat to bowler/derby, or the other way around? Not that I've investigated it, but I know a lot of the mid-century top hats I've seen had no curl to the brim edge. Could it be that it first became popular on the bowler ? Logic suggests that it was already being used on top hats, and Lock & Co. just used the same technique on the bowler. There may not be any way to answer that question, but I think it's worth a look. My biggest problem is finding early derbies to see how they changed from 1860 to 1890. I would imagine the same is true of bowlers from 1850 onward. Mostly we have to rely on photographic evidence.

Yes, I'll stop with the Derby Revival in 1958-59. You're right, from that point to today the cheaper manufacturing methods altered the hat from what it originally was. I think most of the crown difference is due to not having the right blocks. The hat factories in America destroyed hat blocks by the thousands during WWII, and since Derby sales were practically non-existant, they were probably some of the first to go. The modern versions never did go back to the original style. As for the short, squat look, I think it's a modern style concession, though also seems to be a logical progression from the taller styles of the 19th century to the shorter crowns in the early 20th. By the 1930s, a typical 5-inch crown is short by 1910 standards, but tall compared to 2011, which tend to be a bit under 5 inches.

Brad
 

newturnofphrase

One of the Regulars
Messages
251
Location
Canada
I'm with you on this last point. One thing I've wondered is whether the D'Orsay-curl on the brim transferred from top hat to bowler/derby, or the other way around? Not that I've investigated it, but I know a lot of the mid-century top hats I've seen had no curl to the brim edge. Could it be that it first became popular on the bowler ? Logic suggests that it was already being used on top hats, and Lock & Co. just used the same technique on the bowler. There may not be any way to answer that question, but I think it's worth a look. My biggest problem is finding early derbies to see how they changed from 1860 to 1890. I would imagine the same is true of bowlers from 1850 onward. Mostly we have to rely on photographic evidence.

Yes, I'll stop with the Derby Revival in 1958-59. You're right, from that point to today the cheaper manufacturing methods altered the hat from what it originally was. I think most of the crown difference is due to not having the right blocks. The hat factories in America destroyed hat blocks by the thousands during WWII, and since Derby sales were practically non-existant, they were probably some of the first to go. The modern versions never did go back to the original style. As for the short, squat look, I think it's a modern style concession, though also seems to be a logical progression from the taller styles of the 19th century to the shorter crowns in the early 20th. By the 1930s, a typical 5-inch crown is short by 1910 standards, but tall compared to 2011, which tend to be a bit under 5 inches.

Brad

Hope you find the time soon, look forward to reading it.
 

Charlie Huang

Practically Family
Messages
612
Location
Birmingham, UK
I don't think you can post a link to an active eBay auction on this forum. You have to post it in a specific thread under certain specific conditions...
 

newturnofphrase

One of the Regulars
Messages
251
Location
Canada
I see now that there is a classifieds section. I'll remove it from here and transfer it to that.

Edit: though I would like it if a mod could inform me of the specific forum policy on non-vendors posting links to their own sales in the relevant thread
 
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coble

A-List Customer
Messages
432
Location
houston
1883 bowler in the wisconsin history museum...

i've been searching around for a bowler i'd like to get custom made. I had to share this, this was on the wisconsin historical museum. This is a bowler from 1883. I thought you guys would get a kick out of this bowler. It is awesome, and i am planning on adding this to my list for 2012 custom hats. Oh they have other clothes and shoes on the site as well, definately thinking of getting a pair of boots made based on the ones on the site. All right guys check it out, this bowler is awesome.

Z0004425.jpg
 

coble

A-List Customer
Messages
432
Location
houston
mayser and alan, those bowlers are awesome. What is the fit like, how do they look on the noggin?
 

bowlerman

I'll Lock Up
Messages
6,292
Location
South Dakota
wow-- neat stuff. i wonder if these are related to what Leonardo di Caprio wore in Gangs of New York, or what Tim Bender calls a "plug?"
 

Viseguy

New in Town
Messages
24
Location
NYC
Tress tristesse

I'm sad to say goodbye to this Tress & Co. bowler, but it's too big for me, and I'm hoping it will go to someone who can actually wear it. Here's a link to the Classified post.

tress01.jpg
 
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bowlerman

I'll Lock Up
Messages
6,292
Location
South Dakota
yes sir, Randall.
I have 3 customs in long ovals, and back in the day when almost all hats were custom fitted, you would have had to run into LOs once in awhile. I think my Kauffman and Mallory Cravenette (the one that wasn't cut in half) were slightly more elongated than "normal" as well.

By the way-- if you have enough courage to work with it, the stiffener should hold your headshape very nicely once it cools, which is very quickly.
 
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randooch

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,869
Location
Ukiah, California
Good to know. Thanks, Jeff. I'd like to find another bowler, maybe with slightly different proportions just for kicks, but prices seem to be approaching primo fedoras these days (e.g., see post #795).

Coble, what city was that in ?? Cool picture.
 

bowlerman

I'll Lock Up
Messages
6,292
Location
South Dakota
trying to put a smile on everyones face today (Now thats a Derby)

derby_hat_real.jpg


Los Angeles, I believe. I've been to one that still exists, although that particular architecture is gone. They used to have live jazz there, and I feel like I may have even played a gig there in my former life in CA.

Interestingly, "The Brown Derby" is/was (not totally sure of the current situation) an Italian joint in Rochester, NY as well. A drummer I used to know from that area (who played with Bill Evans and after he died, Tony Bennett, and probably still does) referred me to this restaurant and I have to say it was the strangest thing to get such good treatment after mentioning his name there!
 

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